With sequel-mania inundating Hollywood (in 2014, eight of the top 15 grossing movies were sequels, with three more being reboots or based on previous movies and another part of the continuing Marvel Cinematic Universe), one can lament that the only way to create something original is to travel to an alternate universe where the story hasn’t been created yet (irony alert: see JJ Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboot).
Before you crush today’s studio executives, be aware that the first movie sequel, “Fall of a Nation,” was made in 1916 as a follow-up to the landmark “Birth of a Nation.” It was ingrained in the heart of the movie business from the start, and if you think about it, the art of storytelling has been using it for millennia. The Odyssey works as part of the saga of the Iliad as “The Lord of the Rings” does “The Hobbit.” Human beings crave the continuing adventures of their favorite heroes…the problem has been identifying whether said heroes are our favorites, not whether we want more.
So, with that in mind, I present to you five unmade sequels to prominent films that should never be made under any circumstances (but tweet me @jaderobe, Mr. Studio Exec, if you like one of these ;-).
Casablanca 2: The Usual Suspects
Rick and Captain Renault have been captured by the Germans for Strasser’s murder and being part of the French Resistance. They are thrown into the local jail, with the idea that Renault would have to suffer at the hands of the criminals he incarcerated. Instead, Rick quickly gains the trust and admiration of the prisoners by establishing a gambling operation that includes the guards and brings along Renault as his number two.
A high-ranking Resistance leader named Cotai is imprisoned a short time after. He passes along information to Rick that Victor Laszlo was killed in France and that Ilsa is headed back to Casablanca just before Cotai is killed by a prison guard.
Emboldened by the news, Rick convinces a colorful cast of characters led by Ugarte’s twin brother (also Peter Lorre) that they can escape the prison with the outside help of Signor Ferrari, as German control of Casablanca has been increasingly hard on the black market.
Rick and Renault devise a plan to trap the prison guards during a fistfight at a gambling session to set their plan in motion. Rick is assisting the last of his cohorts through a hole cut in the prison fence by Ferrari as the guards arrive. Rick sacrifices himself to let the others escape (“Louis, I think this is the end of a beautiful friendship”), and is sentenced to death.
At the moment Rick is to be hanged, American forces arrive at the prison to liberate Casablanca. Ilsa is among them, gunning down several Nazis. Amidst the fighting, Rick and Ilsa hide in the prison kitchen. An explosion throws them onto a large pile made of the prison’s bean supply, where they fall into each other’s arms. Ilsa says, “I thought you stick your neck out for nobody.” Rick smiles and responds, “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”
Rick and Ilsa rejoin the fighting and sweep through the Nazis. They regroup with Renault and make plans to travel to America. “We’ll always have Paris,” Rick says, “but we need the United States.”
Titanic II: Twice as Ice
Set in the Disco Era, a cavalier cruise ship tycoon named Cole Burns creates the nuclear-powered Titanic II, outfitted with a radiation-plated, steel-reinforced hull designed to melt the sharp edges and prevent punctures caused by icebergs.
For its maiden voyage, all survivors of the original voyage are invited as the ship takes a cruise around Antarctica to demonstrate its sturdiness against icebergs. Among the passengers is Lily, the spunky grandchild of Rose Dewitt and Jack Dawson. Additionally, several CEOs of prominent manufacturing companies are also aboard.
Lily is a famous environmentalist using her notoriety to draw attention to global warming, especially with the industrialist Burns known for fighting anti-environmental laws. Her plans are to subvert the cruise by sabotaging the nuclear engines and destroy the ship along with the one-percenters.
As she eats dinner on the first night, a dashing young waiter named Storm Forcier catches her eye. She asks him to meet with her that evening, figuring a last fling before her suicidal end couldn’t hurt. The fling grows more passionate as the eve of her plan approaches, and Lily begins to have second thoughts as she falls in love with Storm.
Meanwhile, following successful deflections of several ice floes, the hubris-filled Burns orders a new course for the ship that will take the boat within 100 yards of cliffs on the Antarctic coast.
As the waters grow more populated with icebergs, the boat begins to careen uncontrollably and crashes into the cliff, causing a part of the ice shelf above to drop onto the deck, the one place unprotected from the ice. The ship begins to break apart and the nuclear engine reaches meltdown, causing further damage to the coast and hastening the plummeting ice bombs. As the couple gets to the lifeboats, Lily pushes Storm out of the way and gets fatally wounded by an ice dagger. As she lies dying, she comforts Storm, telling him her heart will go on with him.
The Usual Suspects: Round ‘Em Up
U.S. Customs Agent Dave Kujan has remained obsessed with tracking down Keyser Söze, losing his job and family in the process. Despondent and desperate, he tracks down one last lead which takes him to Kobayashi. Kobayashi appears disheveled and troubled, and invites Kujan into the small and rundown hovel. Kujan demands to know what Kobayashi knows about Söze.
Kobayashi reveals that his name is actually Sinclair and that he has concerns that Verbal Kint has been tracking down Söze in an attempt to extract revenge upon him for the deaths of the rest of his group in the failed assault on the Argentinian freighter in San Pedro. Kujan dismisses this story, explaining that Kint is Söze and that he knows about the charade Söze pulled in his office.
Sinclair disputes the story, pointing out that while Kint may have changed the names of some of the goings on, the story was largely true except for one thing: Kint was not Söze. Kint was part of Söze’s inner circle, however, with eyes on taking over the name from the true Söze.
Through a series of violent flashbacks, Sinclair explains that after Söze’s disappearance once the Hungarian gang wars ended, the name had been used as a form of the boogeyman to strike fear into rivals, and that more than one person had operated under the title to throw the authorities off the track. The Hungarians present at the events in San Pedro had thought they were part of a plot to draw the true Söze into the open, but the whole thing was orchestrated at a higher level by the men who used the name to test Kint to see if he should be included in the consortium. Kint’s capture by Kujan had signaled failure, and Kint escaped by taking advantage of Kujan’s fixation.
Kujan, clearly not willing to fall for the same trick twice, tells Sinclair that his story is malarkey and holds him at gunpoint. He calls the FBI to inform them that he had found Kobayashi/Sinclair to turn him in. Sinclair continues with the Keyser Söze backstory while they wait for the FBI.
In the ensuing years, Kint had been slowly amassing resources to prepare for an assault on the real Sözes, and he had killed two of the three men who operated “officially” as Keyser Söze. The third man was on the run, and Kint was expected to find him any day. Kujan tells him that it doesn’t matter, Sinclair can save his breath on all of the lies he was telling.
Outside of the house, a gunfight erupts, and as Kujan checks the situation at a window, he can see the FBI agents under fire. The door ominously opens and in walks Verbal. Verbal menacingly tells Sinclair to sit down and that he is finally able to wrap up all of the loose ends. As Kint and Sinclair argue, Kujan concludes that Sinclair is the last Söze. He pulls out his gun and points it at both of them, wavering between the two, shaking emphatically. After pulling the trigger (without the audience seeing who he is targeting), he looks down to see who has been shot. With the camera shot from Kujan’s perspective and his vision blurring, leaving us unable to see who survived, we hear in thick, subtitled Hungarian “Thank you for being a useful adversary, Agent Kujan. The Devil does exist, and I am he.”
E.T.: Phone Home
A grown-up Elliot is out walking with his eight-year-old daughter Reese in the woods where he found E.T. 30 years ago. He has some bad news to deliver, preparing to tell her that he and her mother Kelly are getting a divorce. Just as he starts, a spaceship zooms in and abducts them.
As it turns out, E.T. was the leader of a scout team from a group of freedom fighters searching for planets to set up a base, disguised as botanists. The oppressive ruling party from his home planet, known as the Tarseen, had been investigating where E.T. had been left to find clues about where his group might be hiding to eradicate them. Finding Elliott was serendipitous so that the Tarseen could hold him ransom and draw out E.T.
During the flight to E.T.’s home world, Uglar, the military leader of the Tarseen, tortures Elliott, knowing that the mental bond left by E.T.’s imprinting would cause E.T. pain. Reese escapes her cell and hides away in the cargo hold. When they arrive at the planet, she flees out into the city. She is discovered by a member of the rebels, recognized as a human, and taken to E.T.
E.T. and Reese devise a risky plan to rescue Elliott, who has been incarcerated in a Tarseen prison. As E.T.’s rebel brethren create a distraction by engaging the Tarseen, E.T. and Reese search for Elliott using the Find Your Friends feature on their iPhones. Uglar discovers them and confronts E.T. for a final battle.
During the epic struggle, Uglar gets the better of E.T. and delivers a killing blow. Reese drapes her body over the dead E.T., tears pouring from her eyes. Uglar laughs maniacally and announces his intentions to kill Elliott. As Uglar heads toward a grieving Elliott, E.T. reawakens, saved by Reese’s love. He defeats Uglar and entraps him in Elliott’s cell.
Elliott, Reese, and E.T. return to Earth. Along the way, Elliott tells Reese about the divorce. Reese is despondent but manages to tell her father that everything will be okay, and that the bond they have will survive no matter what the future holds. As they are leaving the spaceship, Reese turns to E.T. and tells him that she will always be right here, pointing to his heart.
Flag Day: Groundhog Day 2
It is June 13th. A retired Phil Connors and his wife Rita are driving through Ohio on a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Rita is dying and they are taking one last vacation while she is still well enough to travel. Rita sees signs for the Flag Day celebration in Findlay on the 14th and asks to stay overnight because she is tired. Phil obliges.
The next morning, Phil and Rita wake up and see the festivities outside and decide to walk around. They have a wonderful time touring the county courthouse with a John Hancock impersonator, visiting the Hancock County Historical Museum, and attending a carnival. Sprinkled throughout the day, they encounter an eclectic mix of individuals that are quaint and interesting in small doses. Time gets away from the couple and Rita, looking exhausted, again asks to stay the night.
The next morning, Phil wakes up and slowly begins to realize that he is reliving Flag Day again. On the first day, he is extremely angry, questioning why he would have to endure such a thing a second time. The things that made Findlay pleasantly quirky are now starting to irk him, causing a fight between Rita and him.
After feeling bad about how he treated Rita, it dawns on Phil that he can relive these days over and over without having to worry about Rita’s failing health. Happier than ever, Phil lavishes Rita with romance, giving him an eternity with the woman he loves.
But as his ideas get more grandiose, he also begins to notice that all of the heavy activities are leaving Rita in worse and worse shape by the end of the day. One day, he offhandedly remarks that he wishes that the day could go on forever. Rita responds that it’s time for Phil to understand that she doesn’t have forever, that he needs to confront the fact that she won’t be around much longer.
Phil takes off in the car in the middle of the night and drives into the Blanchard River. He wakes up the next morning next to Rita and spends the next few days despondent, taking his unhappiness out on the townspeople. Rita, having accepted her fate, consoles him and wants him to enjoy the time she has left, rather than worry about the time she doesn’t have.
One morning, Phil wakes up and has a frank conversation with Rita about her future and how he feels about it. Rita wishes that things were different, that he did not have to endure her illness, and that she would give her heart to him for eternity if she could. Phil responds that she already has, that he will miss her when she’s gone, and that after they visit the festival he will be ready to move forward. They have a wonderful, simple day enjoying the town and its people, and drive off on the highway into the twilight.